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I believe that closing should be made less rewarding and less exposed -- make the list of users who voted to close less prominent, for starters. I'm not sure the [Closed] suffix in the title adds any value either; it seems to be there simply to hang the question up as an example more than anything. Most other sites (blogs, forums etc.) have no problem with simply writing something along the lines of "Comments are no longer accepted" at the bottom of the page.

Many members are no doubt aware of the exposure on some level, and make a habit of dishing out closures liberally for that reason -- effectively almost ensuring an all-alpha moderation team.

Or, if there's concern that making the closures less exposed also removes accountability, maybe we can consider other solutions. Either way, I want to bring attention to the fact that this is likely an issue.

No one doubts that the moderation on SO and SE is becoming increasingly stringent, although the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is in debate.

My suspicion is that this isn't what the majority of users (both long-standing and recent) really want (see my discussion on P.SE here, where particularly a lot of users have concerns about the moderation), but that we ended up with alpha-personality, overzealous, micromanaging moderators because of a sampling bias in the elections, and to a lesser extent, a base of overly trigger-happy users.

Closing questions earns users a lot of exposure, with the SE UI putting their names in huge linked letters in the familiar Closed by __. As a result, much as the US presidential and congressional candidate with the most advertising spending almost wins over 90% of the time, with the members that dish out the most close votes being the most visible on the site, they end up earning the most votes.

It isn't helped by the fact that making meaningful suggestions on how a question might be improved is more time-consuming than clicking on the Close button and commenting "See the FAQ". For many people, especially those who like feeling powerful, it's also less primally rewarding.

Although it may be too late because the culture has already been established (and reflected in updated versions of the FAQs), it may, over a long period of time, lead to a different -- and I'd argue more representative -- group of moderators. To me it's becoming increasingly clear that the moderation on SE (especially more conversational ones like Programmers) is about habitually stretching the interpretation of the FAQ to close/delete as often as possible, than about maintaining focused and good content.

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The public list of users who close a question works both ways, in that it prevents trigger happiness as much as it potentially promotes it. When I am about to click the close link, my mind is on the accountability facet of having my name under the question, not some supposed "glory" I will attain due to it. YMMV. –  Asad Dec 29 '12 at 23:58
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@Asad That's how you and I think, but for a lot of people (the kinds of people who I argue end up more likely to become moderators or vigilantes), it's more about the fame/thrill/glory than the accountability. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 0:00
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"...but for a lot of people [...] it's more about the fame/thrill/glory than the accountability. " -- Citation needed. –  Charles Dec 30 '12 at 0:03
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Why would anyone want to have to load the entire page to then find out it's closed? That's why it's appended in the title –  random Dec 30 '12 at 0:19
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@ReiMiyasaka That is interesting stuff I'm sure, but could you point to some evidence here on SE of close votes by thrill seekers? My problem with your argument is that it presumes knowledge of people's motives that none of us have. –  Asad Dec 30 '12 at 0:20
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I'll point out that there is no direct reward for closing questions, and any correlation between close votes and rep is probably because you need high rep to cast close votes and close voters are probably those who care the most about the site. And closing questions benefits the community as a whole by keeping questions on-topic and answerable. –  murgatroid99 Dec 30 '12 at 0:38
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@ReiMiyasaka You're reading too much into this. –  Asad Dec 30 '12 at 0:47
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@ReiMiyasaka The [Closed] suffix ... is public humiliation: No, it is just an indication that the question is closed. To think of it as some sort of public shaming is to overinterpret it. –  Asad Dec 30 '12 at 0:52
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@Rei: of course some people feel insulted. I don't know that's a good reason to lie about a question being closed though; far more people read questions than ask them, and as a reader I would tend to feel more insulted if I repeatedly opened questions only to find them closed. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 0:57
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@ReiMiyasaka No, that would be silly. I'm just going to deny that people are deliberately closing questions in order to boost their own egos and insult/shame others. That is what this question is about, no? People do get upset when questions are closed/downvoted/deleted, but this isn't an indication that someone is actively trying to upset them. Most people don't take it personally and bounce back. –  Asad Dec 30 '12 at 0:57
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For what it's worth: I've closed a fair number of questions, and I can't really say it's ever felt particularly rewarding or glorious. If you're lucky, the person asking comes back and asks a better question; usually, you get either no response, or overt hostility. You've gotta be one sick SoB to close questions for the fun of it. Bill's answer nails the problems with your proposal, IMHO: you're making a lot of assumptions and jumping to some strange conclusions with very little effort made to back them up. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 1:01
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Wait, there's suppose to be glory?!? Then where is mine, damnit? I want the glory I've earned. Want, want, want! –  dmckee Dec 30 '12 at 3:37
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"I've provided several" No, just like Asad said, you provided evidence that such behaviors exist, not that they come into play here. –  dmckee Dec 30 '12 at 5:01
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Claiming that we're no different is all well and good, but you've created a wobbly tower of supposition that depends on the claim that people are getting "glory" for closing questions. I've cast a lot of close votes over the years, and I have never once been congratulated for it. I have, however, been repeatedly castigated and called names for my trouble. Garbage in, garbage out. –  dmckee Dec 30 '12 at 5:12
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Even if one granted your premise, wouldn't removing the '[closed]' suffix in the question title lead to more views of each closed question, and therefore more visibility for each of the close-voters? –  David Robinson Dec 30 '12 at 5:15

3 Answers 3

No one doubts that the moderation on SO and SE is becoming increasingly stringent, although though the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is in debate.

If that's in debate, then that's the question we should be asking, not basing new rules on the assumption that it's a bad thing.

My suspicion is that this isn't what the majority of users (both long-standing and recent) really want...

Based on what? Citations please.

...with the members that dish out the most close votes being the most visible on the site, they end up earning the most votes.

Voting to close questions is one of the least effective ways to get attention. It's pretty thankless. Answering questions makes you much more visible. Having a lot of helpful moderator flags and being an active editor are both far more likely to help you get elected as a moderator. Closing questions won't even put you on most people's radar.

For many people, especially those who like feeling powerful, it's also less primally rewarding.

I don't see any evidence that "feeling powerful" is a major reason to cast a close vote. I spend a lot of time in the moderation queue, and lately quite a bit of time in the close vote review queue. Most of the questions that are there really do have something wrong with them.

To me it's becoming increasingly clear that the moderation on SE (especially more conversational ones like Programmers) is about habitually stretching the interpretation of the FAQ to close/delete as often as possible, than about maintaining focused and good content.

I think you need to try to understand that having quality standards is what makes Stack Exchange sites better than competing sites like Yahoo! Answers. The communities have a say in what goes into the FAQ, they make the content, and they elect the moderators. If there's a specific question that gets closed that shouldn't be, the community has the power to override even a moderator's decision and reopen it.

In short, I don't think any kind of perceived recognition is the primary reason for close voting, as the majority of the close votes I've seen are on questions that actually need to be closed. Unless this changes dramatically, I don't see any reason to change what little recognition/blame people do get for voting to close.

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Edited with citations. Again, I never questioned that the strong moderation is useful (and it's obviously why I participate here and not on Yahoo Answers), but I'm suggesting that it's too strong -- more than what most users want. You're polarizing what I'm saying. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:03
    
@ReiMiyasaka I'm not polarizing what you're saying, I'm just illustrating that you're not supporting what you're saying. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 30 '12 at 1:05
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@Rei: if that's true - if moderation is too strong - then that's the problem that needs to be addressed - sweeping it under the rug by obscuring the fact that questions get closed and the folks closing them doesn't solve anything. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 1:05
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Voting to close does give you recognition. It's there, right underneath the question, underlined, colored, <h2>'d. The community also doesn't have much of a say, because reopening requires 5 votes (I believe), and hardly 20 people will look at some of the more esoteric questions -- of which most questions on SE are fairly esoteric by nature of the field. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:06
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@ReiMiyasaka You can consider it recognition or you can consider it blame. I honestly don't pay much attention to who closed a question unless I think it shouldn't have been closed. Reopening requires the same number of votes as closing. Once a closed question is edited, it gets bumped back to the Active list, and once one person votes to reopen, it goes into a reopen review queue. There are opportunities for closed questions to get views. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 30 '12 at 1:08
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@Shog9 I'm deliberately supposing that the moderation is too strong, because it's been suggested plenty of times in the past. If there is a method for which it might happen, then it's likely (but not necessary -- hence why I'm careful to use the word suspect) that both the method and effect exist -- and in a lack of good evidence to say that moderation is either too strong or too weak, I'm suggesting a simple way to ensure that it isn't too strong. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:10
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@BilltheLizard That's a nice way of dealing with closed questions, but it still doesn't have anything to do with the fact that the current presentation and application of the close feature might be encouraging people to do it more than they should. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:12
    
@ReiMiyasaka So you propose that we make the close list smaller, and take away the [closed] suffix? –  Asad Dec 30 '12 at 1:14
    
@Asad The former, yes, it's the least that can be done without losing anything useful from the site. The latter, as I suggested, I think is debatable. The [Closed] title does have some utility, so it'd have to be weighed against the possible negatives. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:18
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@Rei: you're neither clearly defining the problem nor demonstrating that your "solution" would solve anything - indeed, I strongly suspect it would remove accountability and create a problem even if one doesn't exist now! "Too strong" isn't actionable; are good questions being closed? Salvageable ones not improved? Borderline ones closed now where before they were fixed? Define the problem, demonstrate that it exists, then propose a solution to it. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 1:23
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@Shog9 As I suggested in the P.SE case, there's very little direct evidence of the problem, but there's also very little direct evidence that the problem doesn't exist. What does exist is observations on group behaviors, and tons of anecdotal cases of people upset about the excessive closures and complaining about it on meta, especially on P.SE, but also increasingly on the other SE sites. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:36
    
@Shog9 I think you're right that making closures less exposed may reduce transparency, and I've updated my question to acknowledge this. Nonetheless, I believe the issue is worth pursuing, even if the solution might be something else. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:40
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@Rei: people have been complaining about excessive closures since SO launched. The volume of complaints has not, thankfully, scaled linearly with the volume of closures. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 1:41
    
@Shog9 That's possibly (probably) because people are more afraid to ask questions to begin with. (I do suggest in my answer there that closing is preferable to downvoting, but I didn't intend that to be saying too much about closing as it was to disagree with excessive downvotes -- which to my mind is even more of an issue, albeit without any good ways to mitigate.) –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:51

Closing questions earns users a lot of exposure, with the SE UI putting their names in huge linked letters in the familiar Closed by __

In addition to what Bill said, closed questions have a tendency to get deleted - so you're effectively painting your name on a building scheduled for demolition. Not exactly a great way to mark your territory...


...I don't see any real indication that having cast a large number of close votes helps you get elected. Remember, voters can't easily determine how many close votes anyone has cast...

Close votes cast prior to being elected as a moderator

Programmers

469
301
209
163
139
893

Stack Overflow

212
238
454
2726
6466
154
266
168
481
1619
668
363


For many people, especially those who like feeling powerful, it's also less primally rewarding

Quoting from the abstract there:

Power has been found to increase risk-taking (Anderson & Galinsky, 2006) but this effect appears to be moderated by individual differences in power motivation (Maner, Gailliot, Butz, & Peruche, 2007). Among individuals high in power motivation, the experience of power leads to more conservative decisions. As testosterone is associated with the pursuit of power and status (Dabbs & Dabbs, 2000), we reasoned that hightestosterone individuals primed with power might be similarly risk-avoidant. Conversely, we hypothesized that high-testosterone individuals primed with low power, would see risk-taking as a vehicle for pursuing potential gains to their status and resources.

...This appears to be entirely inapplicable. Closing questions involves neither significant risk nor offers any potential gain - you don't gain reputation on the site by closing, there are no badges for closing, you cannot garner additional power by closing!

There's a small potential risk of getting called out by someone for voting to close a question. Unlike other activities on Stack Exchange, charges of careless closing cannot readily be countered with a clear, visible history of valid closing, so getting called out for one bad closure in 1,000 offers no less potential for stress or humiliation than 1 in 10.

I'm even less clear on how testosterone levels figure into this, given the overwhelmingly male population of Stack Exchange.

Voting to close (or voting to do anything else) is undeniably easier than answering, editing, or leaving constructive comments. This makes it a good tool for those situations where trying to fix a question isn't really worth the effort. But answering, editing, and even leaving a comment are all more rewarding.

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Yes, there is risk, as you pointed out yourself: "If you're lucky, the person asking comes back and asks a better question; usually, you get either no response, or overt hostility." More importantly, testosterone isn't just a male hormone, it's attributed to risk-taking, domination, anger and all those generally alpha male traits. And again, you and I may feel that answering and editing is more rewarding, but a lot of people do get a kick out of attacking things blindly. It's the same reason people love watching people screaming on TV debates. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:23
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Voting to close is not very much like watching TV. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 1:24
    
Deletion has nothing to do with it. Not only are deletions not particularly common, if a question that you have your name on because you disapproved of it does get deleted, you're effectively signing the bomb, not the demolished buildings. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:25
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@ReiMiyasaka You're mistaken. Deletions are very common. –  simchona Dec 30 '12 at 1:26
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@Shog9 Voting to close is like shouting on TV, or cheering for the people shouting. It's part of being a mob. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:27
    
@simchona Okay, I honestly have no way of knowing how many deletions there are, but what does that change? –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 1:29
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@ReiMiyasaka You're making the point that deletions have nothing to do with anything because they're not common. They are very common, and when a question is deleted the names of the people who closed it are no longer there. So this whole "mob effect", if any, is limited. –  simchona Dec 30 '12 at 1:30
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@Rei: I think what you're getting at is the pile-on effect where one vote can lead to others adding their own without due consideration. This can be a problem - it's why flags aren't visible on posts anymore - but it's a problem that exists even when participants are completely anonymous (as with ordinary voting, and with flagging in the past). –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 1:36
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I really have a hard time buying that, @Rei. For what it's worth, less than 20 people on Programmers regularly cast more than one close vote a day. And that's a huge step up. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 1:55
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@Rei: on Programmers, getting anyone to close was like pulling teeth for a while there. I agree it's still not healthy (and this creates problems for re-opening things as well), but at least it's gotten better. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 2:14
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Better in the sense that voting works better when more people are involved in it, @Rei. Oh - and I can't see any correlation between close votes cast and electability. See my edit. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 2:21
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Define "similar activity". None of those numbers are even in the top 10 for their respective sites. More interesting is simply the variance: you have folks getting elected with less than 200 close votes under their belts, and less than 500 isn't even uncommon on Stack Overflow where the all-time top close voter has cast 31,000 votes... You're fishing, @Rei. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 2:29
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@ReiMiyasaka How about some evidence for what you are saying? I can see your argument being more compelling if you quoted meta posts referring to similar problems, or simply some linked to some examples of close vote abuse of the sort you are describing. –  Asad Dec 30 '12 at 2:40
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I gotta be honest, @Rei: the only way to do this justice would be to pull the number of close votes for every candidate in an election, along with their reputation at the time, flags at the time, etc. and then count the votes received by each and try to find some relationship. That's gonna be tedious, and I don't feel like doing it, particularly given that reputation will almost certainly have a bigger impact than anything else. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '12 at 3:03
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Oh Shog you TEASE! :p –  jcolebrand Dec 30 '12 at 3:32

A person could use up away a lazy afternoon listing the mistakes in this question.

'No one doubts?' Oh? Just how do you propose to support that proposition? I doubt. I imagine that a lot of other people doubt. There have been a few, discrete, changes in the site's policy which have pushed some questions over the line. That's not even slightly the same thing as some sort of monotonic, constant, trend.

In the vast majority of cases the people who close aren't moderators. Of all the people who vote to close, only a microscopic minority will ever even be nominated for diamond mod status. So the notion that people are getting political advertisement value out of having their names on the 'closed-by' list is laughable. We aren't up for election. We aren't fishing for votes. We're just 'taking out the trash' and 'boarding up the broken windows.'

And then you go on and on about the idea of a 'more representative group of mods.' 99% of the things that happen on the site happen due to the action of non-moderators. Ordinary users who have earned some rep. We could replace every single diamond mod tomorrow and it would have nearly no effect on question closure and deletion.

Not to mention your citation of a p.se meta discussion as supposed evidence of a groundswell of public opinion on stack overflow.

Are you sure your real initials aren't E and C?

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Who the heck is EC? Shog9 pointed out that there's less than 20 people doing more than 1 close vote per day on P.SE. That to my mind isn't very representative of the community there; they may not be moderators, but they're a militia. Also, how much is "the vast majority"? As for more strict moderation, when moderators are boasting that the moderation is improving quality, it doesn't make sense to suggest that it hasn't gotten more strict. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 2:47
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What does p.se have to do with this? You wrote, " moderation on SO and SE". And if you don't know who E.C. is, you haven't been paying attention here. –  Rosinante Dec 30 '12 at 2:51
    
@ReiMiyasaka That isn't a hard statistic. "Regularly" and "more than 1" might as well mean people who cast 2 votes instead of 1 every three or four days. –  Asad Dec 30 '12 at 2:54
    
@Asad It's the best we have. It certainly doesn't support the idea that the majority of close votes are cast by a large number of people. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 3:10
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@Rosinante P.SE is SE, and even though it's one of most vigorously moderated, the changes to moderation are happening everywhere on P.SE. I don't need to know every SE celebrity to be paying attention to the problems here. –  Rei Miyasaka Dec 30 '12 at 3:13
    
OK, I must ask: Why E and C? :) –  kiamlaluno Dec 30 '12 at 16:32
    
@kiamlaluno Who is the most famous more or less troll in the last two years on meta, who likes to talk about 'EXP' and generally throw around wild notions? –  Rosinante Dec 30 '12 at 16:43
    
Ooooh! I got it. :) Yes, his initials are EC. How could I forget about him? –  kiamlaluno Dec 30 '12 at 16:45

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